(Photo courtesy Florida Sports Information)
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On Wednesday, Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier, defensive lineman Gervon Dexter Sr., and wide receiver Ricky Pearsall met with the media to update this week’s preparation and preview Saturday’s matchup with LSU.
Here are the main takeaways:
- Saturday’s matchup will mark the first time Napier and LSU head coach Brian Kelly meet as head coaches at their new schools. “What I respect is the fundamentals that I see on the film, the soundness. He’s much like we are, halfway through the first year,” he said. He added that what he respects the most is the amount of success Kelly has had at every stop he’s made. Although the Gators have lost the last three matchups, Napier said that none of the previous matchups will affect the game on Saturday, but the awareness of the importance is there.
- Arguably LSU’s biggest threat on offense is quarterback Jayden Daniels, a transfer from Arizona State. Napier said that his biggest threat is his ability to run while adding that he has tremendous arm talent. “He’s accurate, and then I think that his ability to work his way through the progression and then kind of the unannounced play, right, like ‘that wasn’t supposed to happen’ but he’s got a knack for that,” Napier explained. He added that the defense needs to be tuned into the rush plan to contain Daniels while affecting the passing game.
- Before the season-opener against Utah, quarterback Anthony Richardson’s break-out game was against LSU last season, where he replaced Emory Jones and nearly led the team to a win. While this season has been up-and-down, Richardson has shown flashes of tremendous ability. “I think it’s partly him growing as a player, and I also think it’s all position groups around him growing as well,” Napier said of Richardson’s growing pains.
- On Saturday, kicker Adam Mihalek missed two long-range field goals, putting him at one for five on kicks beyond 40 yards. “The numbers and all that contribute — once a kicker has a track record then it’s much easier to adjust your strategy,” Napier said. He added that the staff is still evaluating Trey Smack’s ability as a field goal kicker before they put him in and said Smack is the best kickoff guy, while Mihalek is the best place kicker. “We have confidence in Adam, 100 percent confidence,” he said.
- Arguably the biggest move on Wednesday’s depth chart was offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence’s presence on the injury report. He was listed as questionable for Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury. “He’s a guy who hasn’t participated 100 percent in practice,” Napier said. “We’ll make some decisions over the next couple of days.”
- Wednesday’s depth chart also included Jack Miller III for the first time this season. Napier explained that although he is medically cleared, Miller III is not the backup quarterback and will only be used in an emergency situation.
Gervon Dexter Sr.
- A consistent message Dexter Sr. relayed during his press availability was the need for the defense to communicate better as a group. “It’s always 10 guys doing it right and one person here or one person there,” he said. “Right now I think we have to focus on everybody doing their job.” He added that Florida’s 13 tackles for loss last week were a result of strong communication between all 11 players, and that communication will be needed to contain Daniels.
- At the halfway point of the season, Dexter Sr.’s stats aren’t eye-popping, but his presence is still felt. He has been double-teamed consistently. Part of that is due to his assignment being to eat up double teams, or it’s unintentional because he’s late off the ball. “I’ve been obviously getting a lot of double teams this year, and the way I’ve been learning how to play it is to get the double-team on two different levels,” he said. He explained that the goal is to get the guard and tackle separated so there isn’t a double team, but it’s something he needs to execute better.
- Dexter Sr. took time to praise linebacker Ventrell Miller for his performance on Saturday, describing him as the quarterback of the defense. “…you know Ventrell is gonna be where he needs to be and he’s gonna make the play that he needs to play,” he said. “He’s a great leader for us on the D-line, on the defense, even the whole team.” He explained that Miller’s communication makes him the “quarterback” as he calls out the strong side, assignments or if someone misses an assignment.
- Due to the lack of depth on the defensive line, Dexter Sr. ranks near the top as far as snap counts are concerned. He said that the high volume of snaps shouldn’t impact the way he plays. He also added that as some of the younger guys, such as Chris McClellan, continue to earn more trust, his snap count should go down, which will open up more opportunities for him.
- Saturday’s game is a reunion of sorts for Pearsall. Prior to enrolling at Florida, Pearsall spent three seasons at Arizona State, where Daniels was his quarterback for all three seasons. Pearsall revealed that the two have spoken the most this week since Pearsall’s transfer. “We face time all the time. He’s definitely talking,” Pearsall said. “But I talk too so it’s going to be really fun, a little rivalry with each other.” Pearsall also explained that he gave the defense some advice about containing his former teammate and added that he warned Daniels, “… Big G (Dexter Sr.) is coming for you…”
- On the LSU defense, Pearsall revealed he’s gotten advice similar to the insight he gave the defense about Daniels. Cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond, who previously coached at LSU, as well as some of the guys who have relationships with LSU’s corners have given some advice to the receivers on how they play. “They’re an athletic defense, they’re a good defense,” he said. “They like to press us so we going to have to win off the line. We’re all studying the film and looking forward to doing that.
- This will be Pearsall’s first taste of the Florida-LSU rivalry, which has gone down to the wire in nearly every game since 2011. He said his teammates relayed information about what to expect to him. “Yeah you know it’s just going to be one of those scrappy games,” he said. “And you know this rivalry just cuz– I think it’s been three years right? that we haven’t won. So you know there’s been a lot of heat behind it but I’m all for that so.”
- Halfway through the season, Pearsall’s rapport with Anthony Richardson has grown as the season’s gone on. On Saturday against Missouri, Pearsall caught a 9-yard pass for a touchdown that would end up being the game-winner. “Actually we had a cross release at the line of scrimmage, so I had to really get over there,” Pearsall recalled. “So as soon as I got into that window, I knew he was going to put it right on the money and I just made the play.” He added that the two’s trust and relationship grows one day at a time throughout practice and the games.
- Pearsall made a complete 180 degree transition with his transfer from PAC-12 Arizona State to SEC Florida. He said the environment and history are big reasons for why he chose the Gators. He said the closest comparison to an SEC-like atmosphere would be Utah.
WCC: More of what Billy Napier, Gervon Dexter, and Ricky Pearsall had to say can be seen HERE.